Energy spin can be powerful, but rhetoric won’t keep the lights on

As a rule, you should pay more attention to what politicians do than what they say.

The German Greens once championed . Now they are part of a where idealism has collided with the real world.

In response to Russia cutting gas exports to Berlin by 60 per cent, Germany’s economic minister Robert Habeck, a Greens MP, had the baleful task of telling the nation that rebooting .

Germany burns lignite, . So, the nation is facing a hard truth: most of its carbon-cutting has come and propping up renewable energy with .

The giant flaw at the heart of the Paris Agreement is that countries are generally held accountable , but emissions generated anywhere are a problem everywhere. Europe’s dirty little secret is that it parades its virtue while exporting its vice. That would explain why carbon in the atmosphere since the problem was first confronted at the .

, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – a man with – announced the . It came at the same time his government was planning . Now British energy companies have been asked to

Closer to home, the state maintained there was no issue with the balance of its wind-dominated generation and made much of installing a , which can power 30,000 homes for one hour. But before the battery was running, SA had built for as long as there is fuel.

Perhaps nowhere has perfected the do as I say not what I do routine better than Victoria. In August 2016 Premier Daniel Andrews trumped . Now, with the energy crisis biting, Andrews has demanded gas from . The gas in question is fracked, comes from Queensland and is already contracted to overseas buyers. If Andrews wants gas, there is plenty of it under his feet in Victoria. At least now he is .

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio says to secure the power supply . Pause on that proposition for a moment. Victoria is demanding that 70 per cent of the National Electricity Market’s generating capacity be excluded from a capacity market.

And who struck a with to ensure brown-coal-burning Yallourn Power Station keeps its capacity in the market until its scheduled retirement in 2028. This raises pretence to performance art.

Last week, this column asked federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen if the short-term fix to the energy crisis was to keep coal-fired generators operating until their retirement date, fix the ones that are broken and include them in the capacity market.

There followed an impassioned speech.

No, that has been a long-held view of yours, and it is not one I agree with, Bowen said. The problem is there is not enough investment in renewable energy. There hasn’t been enough investment in storage. Yes, you can say the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. The rain doesn’t always fall either, but we can store the water and we can store renewable energy if we have the investment. That investment has been lacking for the last decade. That is the problem.

In no particular order, storing water involves digging a hole in the ground, . The question asked about dealing with the real world, in the short term, with the assets that we have. The answer was a lament to a world that does not yet exist.

And is that renewables are the future but, today, they present serious engineering problems. To deny that is to deny the science. I could lie and claim the transition was easy and win plaudits from the conga line of dopes on Twitter, but that show is already oversubscribed.

Some things in politics can be spun and don’t matter. But the electricity system is governed by physics and is really serious. No amount of rhetoric will power it. Like gravity, you get this wrong, you fall.

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